After three weeks of elimination favourites being sent packing, punters are hoping Jack Walton continues the trend and they don’t get a Halloween fright when the bottom of the vote is revealed tonight.
Producers have shown no more than nominal interest in Jack from the off: a wildcard choice who was put in the Strictly overlap for weeks 1 and 2, and whose staging has progressively worsened. Spoilers revealed by Heisenberg and other commenters suggest that trend will continue. He fully deserves his place at the head of the market, though he’s a bit too short for us to tip given the switch away from the expected single elimination format.
His song choice ‘Bleeding Love’ may be difficult for him to pull off. It’s been a popular choice for the show, covered by the likes of Matt Cardle and Sam Bailey. Lloyd Daniels was even more limited than Jack in his vocal range and got away with it, but was given helpful staging, vocals on the backing track, overly harsh criticism from Simon, and tears plus a hug from mentor Cheryl.
The rationale behind this week’s twist of an immediate Saturday-night elimination followed by a traditional Sunday-night singoff, is first and foremost a ratings ploy, but it also gives Cowell a chance to clear the show of some of its dead wood, having criticised some dreadful performances. Based on what we’ve seen so far, producers have no interest in keeping Jack around for week 5, but punters are now relying on him propping up the phone vote tallies.
Next up in the elimination market are Only the Young, singoff survivors from last week but singled out for criticism for their tuneless rendition of ‘Winner Takes It All’. They are relying on the fun ‘Monster Mash’ this week, which they know well. It puts them in with a chance of bouncing out of danger, but an unhelpful production could undo any perceived advantage.
It will be interesting to see how much their VT focuses on the vocals from last week’s singoff. If there are highlights of the worst moments, and the mocking it received from Cowell and the press, it won’t be a good sign. Their last two VTs have been incredibly negative, with the focus on moaning and bickering.
Someone else Cowell singled out for criticism last Sunday was Lola Saunders after her disastrous performance of ‘When You Believe’. He had been more honest than the other judges on Saturday night, so it was a concern for her that he returned to the subject on Sunday. Her regional vote and tears on stage may have seen her vote hold up reasonably well, but she’ll have to redeem herself tonight in the eyes of producers and neutral viewers.
What works in her favour is that the two acts mentioned above have been softened up over the last two weeks, and the competition is rather male-dominated, but the pressure is on for her rendition of ‘Crazy’.
Paul Akister has also shortened in the elimination market this week despite recent positive treatment. Producers may want to cut him loose at some point but he’s served a couple of uses up till now: he fishes for votes in the same pool as Andrea Faustini; and he’s one of the better singers left. Up till now, his VTs have suggested he has some way to go in a journey of coming out of his shell. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a suggestion that ‘Bat Out of Hell’ represents the end of that process.
Jay James has been cited as another possible singoff contender, even though his coverage has also been overwhelmingly positive for the last few weeks. His song choice of ‘Mad World’ plays to his style of singing, whether you love or hate his shtick.
At similar odds, it makes more sense for Stereo Kicks to fall back into the danger zone given that they are coming off a sympathy bounce from week 2 singoff survival. Fellow boyband Union J bounced and fell for five consecutive weeks back in 2012. Obviously, producers have done their best to promote the idea of rebooting the eightpiece experiment, and that seemed highly successful last week.
They are going to have to make just as much effort this week. ‘Everybody’ is a popular and fun Halloween tune, though it will be interesting to see if they change the repeated references to original artists The Backstreet Boys in the lyrics.
The one act I haven’t yet come to who features prominently in elimination markets is Stevi Ritchie. Given the evidence that he can deliver ‘Music of the Night’, I’m not seeing it as his ‘Creep’ moment – the song given to novelty equivalent Wagner to finish him off in 2010. Rather, I think producers will go all out to keep him in the competition for a while longer. His Harvester date with Cowell this week should provide some VT gold.
Of the others, I’m very interested in the treatment of Ben Haenow after last week’s mixed messages. Song choice ‘Highway to Hell’ suggests he’s in a holding pattern right now. ‘Relight My Fire’ has been used to deramp in the past, and is a tricky one for public favourite Andrea Faustini, whilst I’m expecting nothing but positivity to surround Lauren’s ‘Dark Horse’ and Fleur’s ‘Thriller’.
It should be an intriguing show indicating how producers long-term hopes are evolving. Do keep letting us know your thoughts below.